Michaelle Jean to vie for Francophonie post despite Canada, Quebec pulling support - InfoNews

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Michaelle Jean to vie for Francophonie post despite Canada, Quebec pulling support

Secretary General of La Francophonie and former governor general of Canada Michaelle Jean walks to the podium to address a youth as peace builders working session at the 2017 United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday November 14, 2017. Jean is showing no signs of withdrawing her candidacy for the top job at La Francophonie.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
October 10, 2018 - 10:30 AM

OTTAWA - Despite Ottawa and Quebec pulling their support, former governor general Michaelle Jean shows no sign of abandoning her candidacy for the top job at la Francophonie.

Jean, who has been secretary general since 2014, is seeking a second term and will be up against Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo when members make their choice later this week.

But on Tuesday, the Canadian and Quebec governments announced they were pulling support for Jean to remain as head of the international organization of French-speaking nations, electing to support the "consensus" candidate instead.

A spokesman for Jean said Wednesday he was surprised at the Canadian and Quebec governments' decision to back Mushikiwabo before the summit even opens.

"A consensus implies a debate that is held according to the standards," Bertin Leblanc said. "With the summit beginning (Thursday), no doubt this discussion will take place among the heads of state and of governments behind closed doors."

Leblanc had said on the weekend that Jean had no intention of dropping out.

Jean has been dogged by accusations of excessive spending during her time as head of la Francophonie. Quebecor media outlets reported she spent $500,000 renovating her rented Paris residence, as well as $20,000 on a piano.

Her principle rival Mushikiwabo has support from France and the African Union countries, leaving Jean's chances of retaining the top job extremely thin.

Without Canada and Quebec's backing, those chances are further reduced on the eve of the two-day summit in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.

Traditionally, the election of a secretary general is reached by consensus, not by vote.

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec premier-designate Francois Legault set to arrive in Yerevan later Wednesday, there were fears within the Canadian government the battle for the job would overshadow the summit.

In recent days, several federal government sources suggested the re-election of Jean, who was chosen in 2014 in part due to the absence of a consensus African candidate, would be "difficult" and that Canada would join a consensus if there were one.

Legault tweeted Tuesday that his government would not support Jean and would join what he called the "African consensus." He said it was time for "a new style of management" in the organization.

While the Prime Minister's Office wouldn't say explicitly it was withdrawing support for Jean, a spokesman for the federal minister responsible for la Francophonie, Melanie Joly, said in an email Tuesday that Canada was ready to "rally around the consensus."

The Rwandan candidate is not without critics. French President Emmanuel Macron has backed her, but four former French ministers responsible for the la Francophonie signed an open letter last month saying Mushikiwabo has no place at the head of the organization.

The candidacy is controversial because of Rwanda's poor human-rights record and the fact Rwanda replaced French with English in its education curriculum in 2010.

Mushikiwabo welcomed the vote of confidence from Legault.

"Quebec's support for the African candidacy is highly appreciated; it is an illustration of positive solidarity in the French-speaking world," she wrote on Twitter.

Canada may have chosen to abandon Jean partly for geopolitical and strategic reasons as it tries to secure a seat on the UN Security Council in 2020.

The francophone organization currently includes 84 states and governments — the vast majority from Africa.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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